Finland joined the European Union together with Austria and Sweden at the beginning of 1995. At first glance, Finnish membership appeared as a rapid change of political orientation, given the inflexible policy of neutrality the country had maintained until the early 1990s. In spite of the brevity of national adaptation and consideration, the decision to follow Sweden and submit an application for EU membership was based on an overwhelming political consensus. All the major political elites, including party and interest organizations, key actors in the private sector, and the media were in favor of Finnish membership. In the referendum for EU membership in October 1994, membership was supported by 57% of the people. A stable popular support characterized the Finnish EU policy for the first 15 years of its EU membership and distinguished Finland from its Nordic neighbours in the EU. The popular approach was anchored in a perception of EU membership representing a comprehensive change from the country’s difficult position in the Cold War era to full-fledged membership in the Western community. Finland thus joined the EU’s currency union as the only Nordic member state and adopted a constructive approach toward more integration in most policy fields. It was only in the context of the economic and financial crisis of 2008–2009 that Finnish public opinion became—at least temporarily—heavily polarized by the EU question. This resembled the situation in many other EU member states. During the two decades of Finland’s EU membership, the country has experienced a Europeanization of its political system and legislation. EU membership has contributed to a further parliamentarization of Finland’s semi-presidential political system with EU affairs being designated to the powers of the government and coordination of policies taking place at the prime minister’s office. Due mainly to EU membership, the Finnish Parliament has also become an influential actor in foreign and European policies. Finland has smoothly adjusted to the EU’s policies and has become a persistent proponent of the EU’s unity in external relations. Since the first years of its EU membership, the country has been in favor of majority decisions and a stronger role played by the commission and the EP in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). It has also gone through a major change in its legislation on crisis management and the tasks of defense forces to be able to better fulfill membership commitments to the EU’s security and defense policies. After the polarization of EU opinion taking place in the framework of the general elections of 2011, and leading to the emergence of an anti-EU “Finns Party” as the third-largest party in Finland, a more consensual atmosphere has recently returned with increasing levels of public support to EU membership. The Finns Party first made its way to the governmental coalition together with the two largest center-right parties in 2015, which significantly softened its EU criticism and moved its focus to an anti-immigration agenda. Finally, in 2017 the Finns Party was split into two parts with the more moderate part practically failing to establish itself in parliamentary or European elections of the spring 2019.
George M. Bob-Milliar
Since the early 1990s, African states have been democratizing. Political parties now dominate the public spaces in many African democracies. The past 26 years have witnessed the growth and consolidation of “party democracy” in Africa. This is the longest period of uninterrupted growth of electoral politics in many countries on the continent. Recent Afrobarometer surveys show that almost two-thirds (63%) of Africans support pluralistic politics. Party identification in sub-Saharan Africa has also been on the rise. Across 16 states Afrobarometer surveyed, a majority of Africans (65%) claim they “feel close to” a political party in their country. The mass public who identified with a particular political party increased by 7 percentage points between 2002 and 2015. Political parties are the vehicles for citizens to engage in party activism. The women and men who join a political party become the party activists. Party activists are the lifeblood of the party organization. And political party activism in sub-Saharan Africa is geared toward the election of the party and its candidates into office. Consequently, party activism is a continuum of high-intensity and low-intensity political activities. Party activists vary in their levels of involvement. Thus, it is a mixture of fanfare and aggressive participation. Political party activism is a multifaceted process where party members undertake any of the following political activities: display a poster, donate money, help with fund-raising, deliver election leaflets, help at a party function, attend party meetings, undertake door-to-door campaigning, and run for party office. The involvement of party members usually varies from active engagement to passive attachment to the party. There were several motives for party activists getting involved in “high-intensity participation.” Because of the crucial role party activists play in the intra- and inter-party competition, the parties provide some incentives to get members commitment. At the organizational level, party activists present themselves for election into party offices at the grassroots, regionally or nationally. They devote their time and financial resources in furtherance of the party agenda. In return, party activists expect the party to reward them with selective incentives when power is won. That said, more research is required at the country level to enable us to construct the profile of the African party activists.